After Kicking Off Maskless 2 Year Old, American Flight Attendant Threatens Complaining Passenger

On Wednesday’s American Airlines flight AA3573 from Key West to Miami, passengers missed connections after a 40 minute delay caused by a flight attendant kicking off a mother and her crying two year old who wouldn’t keep their mask on.

The whole planeload of passengers was offloaded, and when another passenger expressed frustration the flight attendant threatened to have her kicked off too for ‘smelling like alcohol’. On a 7 a.m. flight. Where both that passenger and flight attendant were wearing masks. The American Airlines slogan is caring for people on life’s journey.

There’s a federal mask mandate requiring passengers two years and older to wear masks in airport and on flights. Before that it was a requirement at most major airlines (Delta allowed exceptions for young children.) Masking is not optional for two year olds, although how an airline enforces the rule is effectively at their discretion. It seems that this crew handled it in about the worst possible way.

According to an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member who shared the story to Facebook,

The lady was trying to lug her carry on bag, the baby and the car seat all onto the plane, the baby kept crying, and Of course….here it comes… didn’t have a MASK ON……as she boarded..[the flight attendant] aggressively scolded the mom about the baby’s mask. …the mom stopped mid aisle fumbling over and over to try and get the mask on this crying baby.

All flight attendant did to assist was say “ma’am you need to step off the plane”….the clearly overwhelmed mom exasperated kept saying “Im trying, Im trying”. Flight attendants response was appalling “If she (baby) cant wear a mask then she shouldn’t travel with you.”

…[Another passenger] got up and offered to help the lady carry the car seat and she got the baby’s mask on and proceeded to her seat a few rows behind me. ..I hear [the flight attendant] say, “she better have that mask on, if I go back there an its not on, Im tossing her off this plane”.

The baby stops crying when drinking from the bottle, and is allowed to be maskless while doing so, while starts crying when the bottle is taken away. A gate agent tried “to de-escalate the situation” with the “angry flight attendant.” Eventually the pilot came out and tried “talking to flight attendant” but eventually an announcement was made that everyone would have to get off of the flight, and the woman and her two year old weren’t allowed back on.

Some readers are thinking at this point, “good – the crying baby was removed.” But it’s a sub-50 minute flight, which was delayed nearly that long, and most passengers on this route are connecting. And the single mom and her toddler had been trying to fly American Airlines since Saturday but due to irregular operations and full flights had finally been rebooked onto the flight that became an issue.

As the Executive Platinum passenger deplaned, she says, she told the flight attendant “You should be ashamed of yourself. A crying baby, really?”

That was it…I didn’t say anymore to her, just kept walking off the plane……mumbled to [husband] a bit more about how we were going to miss our connection and that we should just stay here.

Once every one was off and back in the terminal (including another poor lady in a wheel chair that had to walk up and down the ramp and extra time each way now barely making it). Another girl was crying that she was going to miss her connection and ultimately miss her brothers funeral (she had a double connection to somewhere out west – and said she barely scraped the money together to get this flight).

…[When the plane re-boarded] I walked toward my seat again, passing angry flight attendant…I just shook my head in disgust. She proceed to march over to my seat, as I got situated and said in a clearly confrontational voice….”Do you have a problem?” ..she repeated it over and over, and then I finally said “yes”.

She called over first gate attendant immediately and said that I was threatening her and that “she should have me kicked off the flight too…she again says “Do you have a problem?” I didn’t want to answer…because YES I did have a problem with her behavior but NO I didn’t want to delay the flight any further for the other passengers on the flight.

..[W]hen I didn’t answer she angrily exclaimed to the gate attendant whom she had called over .”Do you SMELL ALCOHOL, I SMELL ALCOHOL.” ..This was a 7am flight….we left our hotel at 5am..we were packed and tucked into bed by 7pm..Also, she had a mask on, an N95 Mask (maybe a double mask) and Bart & I were fully masked up as well…Again she asked if I had a problem and was I going to be quiet and behave?…I said “fine”. She again repeated the question and said “Say Yes or No”. Knowing I was about to be holding up the plane further and Bart prodding me to just say what she wanted….I reluctantly did. She said “Could you repeat that” as if she wanted to rub it in that she again relished so much power over peoples travel ability. I repeated the answer to her as she wished, as I thought about the poor girl crying in the back of the plane waiting to get to her brothers funeral. She strutted back up front like a peacock and flight proceeds to take off.

According to an American Airlines spokesperson,

“Two customers were removed from American Airlines flight 3573 prior to departure from Key West (EYW) for failing to comply with the federal face mask requirement. After agreeing to comply with the face mask requirement, the customers were rebooked for travel on the next available flight to Dallas / Fort Worth (DFW) and completed travel later that day.

We are reviewing this incident and a member of our team has reached out to the customers to learn more about their experience.”

There seem to be far more mask confrontations on American Airlines than other carriers. That may partially be a function of carrying more passengers, and doing so at lower average fares, than some of their competitors. But it also appears to be a function of how cabin crew react to mask issues. United Airlines seems to have fewer passenger confrontation and, likely because of de-escalation work done after the David Dao incident, tends to just ‘write up’ noncompliant passengers rather than kicking them off aircraft or diverting flights.

Surely that manner of addressing mask non-compliance is superior to removing a two year old, delaying a flight, and causing numerous passengers to miss connections. That’s especially so since the issues were occurring on board the aircraft, with HEPA air filtration, and when young children have represented less of a threat throughout the pandemic. A couple of months younger and the child wouldn’t have been required to wear a mask at all.

Meanwhile, the very next day:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Can we vote AA as the worst airline in the world based on passanger experience (remember they pay for everything and are the reason AA exists)

  2. Hi Gary,

    This has to be one of the saddest postings that I’ve yet read. Hard to believe on so many levels. Assuming that the “facts” reported here are even partly correct, then it so vividly illustrates some of the worst training, worst customer service, and worst corporate behavior that I’ve heard of.

    Yes, complying with the masking requirements is essential (I wear my KN95 everywhere at the airport and in planes). And it sounds as if the Mother was trying to comply (and a kind soul tried to help her with her bag and the car seat – God bless him).

    Not only do I see a demonstration of unusually poor training on how to de-escalate and other aspects of customer service, I see overall poor corporate policies and guidance on managing situations like these.

    This story illustrates why more and more often I do all that I can to avoid American Airlines. As a 20+ year Executive Platinum with over 6 million miles flown on AA, I realize that they have become poor in so many, many aspects of customer service. I had hoped that “well, at least they will get me from Point A to Point B, so shut up and suffer whatever is left”. But now even that may not be the case.

    I wish that I could un-read what your story is. But it is an example of what AA has become. The FAs were never a happy lot, but they seem to be downright angry at everyone these days, including the very people who provide their lofty salaries.


  3. It seems like ground hog day. The AA FA’s are the most arrogant belligerent employees I have ever come across in 30 years of business travel. Since the late 90’s I have made a point of never flying AA unless absolutely necessary. So sad that this is not an aberration.

  4. This type of behavior by the flight attendants would result in termination at any “at will” job. Many Union members repeatedly embarrass the brand they represent and will be back at work Monday morning

  5. Actually, this is the best argument yet for AA FA’s giving reduced “service” onboard. It’s better and safer for the PASSENGERS if they all just hide behind the curtain drinking, chatting, and playing games on their cell phones.

  6. First, this was an Envoy, not American mainline flight.
    Second, there is a shortage of pilots and mechanics but not flight attendants. There are plenty of American/American Eagle employees that can work amicably with the public but there are plenty of others that cannot – and the ranks of people like this flight attendant need to be thinned. Doug Parker was too close to labor from the day he sought their support for the merger w/ USAirways and customers paid the price for it.
    Third, Robert Isom’s success or failure will be determined by how well he can allow American to achieve its goals – and make sure labor understands its place. United clearly had an employee attitude problem at the time of Dr. Dao but they are working diligently on it and there has been improvement. All of the hard product investments American makes mean nothing if their people cannot get along w/ customers. American by far has the most confrontational employees on every kind of issue. not all but far too many.

  7. In the photo of the pilots, we don’t know if that was taken before pandemic as we can’t see other people around them wearing masks.
    As for this flight, it’s really unfortunate given how short a flight it is from Key West to Miami.

  8. “”She again repeated the question and said “Say Yes or No”.”
    “She said “Could you repeat that””

    I like to think of myself as a rational adult but I confess I don’t know if I could have held it back at that point. In what other industry do we customers permit businesses and their employees to talk to us in that way?

    AA seem to have really lost the plot here. Set aside service and product issues, reliability, predeparture beverages–their staff is verbally abusive to paying customers and guilty it seems in this case of at least defamation (“I smell alcohol” on a 7 am flight). They can’t even operate their airline without fighting with customers. What the hell is going on?

  9. You read this, and then you read about the crew that decides to turn a LHR-bound 777 around **over the Atlantic** to come back to Miami because a woman wouldn’t wear a mask (she was not arrested, which removes credibility from the allegations she was verbally abusive to the staff–everyone records everything nowadays), and you think, does anyone at AA actually give a shit about doing their job, or are they just there to virtue signal and beat up on the public?

  10. Sorry they just plain suck. People have to stop tolerating this behavior and fly elsewhere. It can be a major inconvenience for me on occasion to have to make a bad connection to avoid aa but honestly I do it. I’m just sick of this nonsense.

  11. If the (uncorroborated) description of the FA’s behavior is accurate, it sounds like a truly awful story.

    That said, I’ve had quite a few flights in the past year on American and they’ve all been fine, or better. This week I was upgraded to Flagship Business on an $88 economy fare and the service was quite attentive.

    There seem to be far more mask confrontations on American Airlines than other carriers.

    “Seem” is carrying a lot of water here. In fact, no evidence is presented that there are more such incidents on American rather than this being reporting bias on Gary’s part (as an American flyer who surely is more plugged in to incidents that happen on American, and more likely to receive news related to American in his feeds).

  12. The cultural rot at AA has advanced to such an extent that there is little hope of recovery at any point in the future.

  13. This is one of the issue with the mask mandate. It’s not clear that it actually makes anyone safer once you take into account delays and the confrontations. The Federal Government should just end the mandate and tell people that are nervous that they should where a high quality mask fitted correctly. It looks like some European Airlines are considering finally getting rid of the mask mandates once their country allows….

  14. Time for the FA to bid late day flights. Those 05:50 report times are brutal for older FA. If this is true? Hope she is written up and given a week off.

  15. At this point, they should just install video cameras in the plane to record for incidents such as this. Problematic passengers should be banned for life and flight attendants and staff that are miserable like this should get fired. Problem solved.

  16. For so very long there has been nothing but ridicule for us United loyalists. And now I sit back and wonder how you AA fans are enjoying the embarrassment of your chosen airline. I have to say, based on the last two years, AA flight attendants shouldn’t list those jobs on any resume. Talk about red flags for future employers. . I guess no point in reading your post on AA capitulating to FA Union.

  17. How many flight attendants wake up in the morning and say to themself “Thirty years on the job and I’m still just a glorified waitress?” And then they decide to take out their anger over poor career choices on the customers they are supposedly there to serve?

    More than you can suspect.

    Makes the power trips all that more frequent and bitter.

  18. So sad, we have been elite level for years and have witnessed the same behavior from FA’s but now even worse during covid. Time to stand up. We have cancelled all flights on American until we see improvement.

  19. Toxic corporate cultures are extremely hard to repair.

    Time for the government to permit a takeover of AA that results in a total reset of that organization. The buyer could then sell the the decaying parts of the fleet, terminate the worst employees and their union, and then absorb the viable staff plus the profitable routes into the acquiring airline.

    Short term pain but long term gain for the owners and the flying public.

  20. Forcing a 2-year-old to wear a mask is monstrous and demonstrates the inhumanity of the covidian cult.

  21. If this story can be corroborated by other passengers, the F/A should immediately be fired. Her behavior is inexcusable. I hope other passengers on this flight contacted AA and stated what happened. Her union can appeal later if they wish. Unions don’t always back the employee. I fly AA a lot and on 95% of the flights the F/A’s are great.

  22. When your American Airlines flight attendant angrily exclaimed to the gate attendant whom she had called over .” Do you SMELL ALCOHOL, I SMELL ALCOHOL.”

    You could say to this flight attendant, “I am willing to take a breathalyzer and blood test as proof that I am not under the influence of alcohol. Are you willing to take the same tests as proof that you are not currently under the influence of alcohol?”

  23. As a FC flyer, another example of why I will connect on Delta, rather than fly nonstop on AA. Delta is much better operationally, and the inflight FA service is always top notch, almost always with a pleasant attitude and attentiveness to the customers. Tired of the crapshoot on AA on whether the FAs on a flight will be friendly and provide service. Don’t have to worry about that with Delta. Deciding right now whether to fly nonstop to DC on AA, or connect on Delta on an upcoming trip. Just decided to connect on Delta.

  24. I realize that American has some terrible team members who are unfit for the job and can never/rarely smile or be kind but they also have their stars.They have a tough job to do based on the federal mandates and working for a company that doesn’t give a rats @##. However many passengers are demanding and difficult and feeling self entitled as emotions run high over these past 2 years. Most folks hate the rules who doesn’t?
    It gets harder for some to play nice and exercise patience
    Its really a tougher job now these days than ever before.
    I can just imagine what it must be like working for American where they frequently treat their passengers like crap despite decades of loyalty and revenue.
    Its tough luck and suck it up no matter what goes wrong.

    If the mother or the child passed the virus to you or your children and one or all of you faced death with a loved one
    I’ll bet their would be far less sympathy for the mother and child not complying
    Its always easy to have sympathy for pets and children etc but we are also no longer living in the year 2000 and the sucky rules are what they are

    If you don’t like it don’t fly or fly Spirit and AA may be looking better 🙂
    None the less all AA front lines need to work harder on kindness and empathy because at the end of the day you want to deescalate to the benefit of all parties

  25. I’ll say it again:

    Flight attendants don’t have to enforce mask mandates. They make the choice to. Just following orders is not a valid excuse. They can choose to ignore people not wearing masks (especially toddlers) and it wouldn’t be a problem. Flight attendants make it a problem and deserve our scorn and if people took action I wouldn’t blame them. Flight attendants have become the NKVD.

  26. Flight attendant on a power trip. She should be fired immediately. No reason for her to work with the public in any job. AA has a lot of really bad flight attendants who do not want to do anything but collect a check, but Envoy and American Eagle flight attendants are even worse. Even pre Covid they were almost always only about themselves, their power, and their ability to do nothing in the way of service without having to worry about repercussions. AA could have culled the bad apples before they tainted the whole lot but did not.
    On the other side, eliminate the mask mandate and eliminate most of the issues that cause outright confrontation. But the flight attendant union wants it permanent because it is the best excuse they have ever had to legally sit on their butts and collect a check.

  27. All has been said that FA should definetly be fired. Where is the helpfulness from the FA, that poor woman needed four extra hands with all that was going on. She was trying to comply as witnessed by other passengers. FA clearly overstepped her job more FA’s like that and AA can file for bankruptcy. Take a second thought folks before you get that airline ticket. What a shame!!

  28. AA is now the bottom of the barrel airline. I used to love American but too many frequent occurrences such as they drove me away. I never thought I would ever say AA was worse than United but now I am.

  29. It is what is. Come on people; how long has this been going on? Mother shoulda rented a car.
    This is regional carrier Envoy that AA stole the name from US then divested. Go whine to them. Further it’s an RJ.
    On the plane or off the plane. That’s what we’re taught.

  30. Union, union, union!

    Protection always for the bad apples will keep AA from improving their image. Go back to what my old AA to used to be known for. Excellence in service.

    Clean it up from the bottom and don’t drive down the airline to the ground.
    Get rid of those people which are costing the airline $$$$ now and in future goodwill. Better to let go of those rotten apples which I have personally experienced long before Covid, because unions self-aggrandize their power, when in reality, they are there to keep order, make you comfortable, safe, and informed about the safety of the flight.

    Maybe Sara Nelson should understand that her supporters sometimes need to be kept in line with companies policies and regulations, and not to exceed their power?

  31. Looks like the FA needs a talking to! “HER STRESS” is stressing everyone else.
    This also is a result of woke culture and left wing nuts drinking the Kool-Aid.
    Being fearful of catching Covid from a 2 year old???. Come on people—pull your head out.

  32. The responsibility in reality for all this covid B.S. madness lies with the media and the current administration , it’s been proven that those who were by far most at risk were those with 4 co-morbidities or more, those who are overweight, have high blood pressure and or diabetes, but think nothing of pulling up to Mcdonalds drive up window and ordering 2 quarter pounders with cheese and a large fries., then they go on shaming others who are smart enough to know that a mask does not do a damn thing to stop the spread of anything except maybe bad breath

  33. Who’s favorability scores got hit worse during the pandemic?
    1) Teachers
    2) Flight attendants
    3) Police officers
    4) County Health Officials
    5) Brandon

  34. If this story is accurate – one of the worst I’ve read in a while. Keep thinking about that poor girl trying to get west for her brother’s funeral.

    Psychopaths walk amongst us. They’re about 1% of the population so they’re everywhere in our day-to-day, in every type of profession and some are flight attendants. So yeah. Sickening behaviour.

  35. Lately AA reminds me of Eastern in it’s final days before the fatal strike under Frank Lorenzo.

    As a colleague at EA told me – the customers hate this airline, and the employees hate this airline. There will not be a happy ending to the story.

    Seems like AA is heading down the same path.

    Yes – I realize it was an Envoy flight – however I believe Envoy is wholly owned by AA.

  36. Madge, (liked your commercials-understated intensity!) I don’t see the relevance to the posted subject.
    Is this some sexual reference I’m not shagging?

  37. Would love to hear corroboration before judging this fully.
    If true that the FA continued to badger the passenger while she was genuinely trying to comply, the FA was not doing her job. Which is, what training teaches, to be helpful to passengers in need (clearly the case with all she was carrying), and deescalate, not escalate, issues. I didn’t hear any supporting info that said the passenger intentionally defied the mask rule with the 2-year old.

    Also not understanding why the entirety of the pax had to deplane then get back on, for her to kick off those two pax? That doesn’t make sense.

    As for the final blow with the other pax, if this is accurate then it’s obvious there was a power issue here, and the FA needs some counseling. No human being should speak like that to another. Period. Everyone has their story and this FA may have been having issues. But that is what sick days are for, don’t bring it to the office, instead seek help. Standard company policy, especially in an industry where customer service is the #1 priority after safety.

    If this is all true, I hope the company and Union get the FA the help and retraining she needs, during her suspension period.

  38. American Airlines should sue Envoy Air for trademark infringement, since this apparently independent airline that has nothing to do with AA is flying around pretending to be affiliated with them. They write “American Airlines” on the side of their airplanes, describe their flights as “American Airlines flight #whatever” and board underneath big “American Airlines” signs at airports. That’s not acceptable for an airline that is not AA, and I’d like to see a lawsuit ending the practice.

  39. FLLFlyer,
    …your point is completely valid – which is why AA management wants to be as big as they can be so that they can argue that they are too big to fail and so they dominate so many markets that customers don’t have a choice.

    In reality, American’s downfall, if it comes, will be because it can’t turn its losses around. Now that government aid has come to an end, American is now back to losing $1 billion per quarter where Delta makes a little money and United loses 2/3 of that amount (although United is the smallest of the 3 US global carriers). Southwest hasn’t reported for the 4th quarter yet but will probably eke out a small profit.

    The market will eventually do what it does – weed out the winners from the losers.

  40. @Anon Mohammed – American Airlines does not yet serve Kool-Aid to passengers, and lately, on most flights, they do not serve Woodford Reserve® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey onboard.

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